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Highest Paid Lawyers in America: Where Attorneys Make the Best Salaries

Updated on July 14, 2012
Courtrooms are a typical workplace for lawyers.
Courtrooms are a typical workplace for lawyers. | Source

(Updated March 27, 2012) Lawyers, who are also called attorneys, advocate for their clients in legal proceedings, negotiations or transactions. Training for the profession requires at least a four-year college degree and then three years of law school. Graduates must then pass their state bar exams before they can practice the profession.

Lawyers make a mean pay of $62.74 per hour or $130,490 per year, though median salaries can descend to $26.02 per hour or $54,120 per year, or ascend to $80.20 per hour or $166,810 per year. Job prospects are average, with a 10 percent total growth expected until 2020. All information is as of 2011 from the U.S. Department of Labor.

States

If you count the District of Columbia as a state, which the Labor Department does, then it has the best mean state pay for its 29,010 lawyers: $77.43 per hour or $161,050 per year.

  • Otherwise, California takes the top honors at $75.27 per hour or $156,570 per year, and also boasts the most attorneys at 67,260.
  • Delaware is next in pay with $72.74 per hour or $151,290 per year, but only has 2,850 positions.
  • New York follows with $72.63 per hour or $151,080 per year. It also offers the second highest employment opportunity with 65,070 jobs.

Cities

San Jose, California, lands in the top metro spot for the highest paid lawyers in America, with mean salaries of $89.96 per hour or $187,110 per year.

  • It is followed by Danbury, Connecticut, at $87.32 per hour or $181.630 per year, and San Francisco, California, at $84.20 per hour or $175.130 per year.
  • However, total opportunities for these three cities are barely half that of Los Angeles with its 23.210 attorney jobs. This second largest city in the U.S. is ranked sixth for salaries at $80.43 per hour or $167.300 per year.
  • Next is New York City, with mean wages at $79.54 per hour or $165.440 per year, but with the greatest number of jobs at 50.360.

Rural Areas

Pay in non-metropolitan areas is generally close to or greater than the national average, though employment is sparse.

  • Top honors go to rural New Hampshire at a mean $46.65 per hour or $97,040 per year for 610 positions.
  • Southwestern Montana shows $34.94 per hour or $72,670 per year for 650 lawyers.
  • West Central Kentucky has $34.22 per hour or $71,180 per year for its 680 attorneys.

Jobs

Not surprisingly, the biggest employers of attorneys are legal services, which consists of law offices and comprise 372,030 jobs. However, they are not the top for pay at $65.95 per hour or $137,170 per year.

  • That distinction goes to petroleum and coal products manufacturing, where salaries reach $103.73 per hour or $215,760 per year for 350 attorneys.
  • Motor vehicle manufacturing pays $90.08 per hour or $187,360 per year for an unspecified number of positions.
  • Specialty hospitals, not including psychiatric and substance abuse, have mean wages of $88.75 per hour or $184,610 per year for 50 positions.

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    • eshelcyris profile image

      eshelcyris 

      6 years ago

      Becoming an attorney is not an easy profession. Though they receive big bucks from their job but then they are always putting themselves at risk.

      Great article, shared and voted.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      alocsin 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      If we keep writing, the lyricwriter, maybe we'll reach these lofty salaries.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      6 years ago from West Virginia

      Voted up, useful, and interesting Alocsin. This was an interesting article, always love the stats and such. I couldn't imagine making that much money. Maybe one day:) Another greatly well written article. Take care.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      alocsin 

      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      That's probably why they get the big bucks, Cenny. But I'd never want to be an attorney either.

    • CennyWenny profile image

      CennyWenny 

      7 years ago from Washington

      Very interesting, but I would never want to be an attorney. I work as a legal assistant and these guys are always stressed and miserable it seems!

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